China’s COVID-19 cases have become “impossible” to track, the country’s top health body said yesterday, with officials warning that cases are rising rapidly in Beijing after the Chinese government abruptly abandoned its “zero COVID-19” policy.
Beijing’s move to scrap mass testing and quarantines after nearly three years of attempting to stamp out the virus has led to a drop in officially reported infections, which last month hit an all-time high.
However, those numbers no longer reflect reality because testing is no longer required for much of the country, the Chinese National Health Commission said in a statement.
“Many asymptomatic people are no longer participating in nucleic acid testing, so it is impossible to accurately grasp the actual number of asymptomatic infected people,” the commission said.
The statement came after Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan (孫春蘭) said new infections in the capital were “rapidly growing.”
Chinese leaders are determined to press ahead even though the country is facing a surge in cases that experts fear it is ill-equipped to manage. Millions of vulnerable older people are still not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and underfunded hospitals lack the resources to deal with an influx of infected patients.
Authorities said they would begin allowing vulnerable people, including those aged 60 or older, to receive a second COVID-19 vaccine booster six months after their first.
A line of about 50 people stretched out the door of a fever clinic in Beijing yesterday, with multiple residents saying they were infected with COVID-19.
“Basically, if we are lining up here, we are all infected. We would not come here if we weren’t,” one person waiting in line said. “I’m here with a senior member of my family, he’s had a fever for nearly 10 days in a row now, so we are coming to do a checkup on him.”
Restaurants, shops and parks are allowed to reopen, but residents are not finding the path to living with the virus straightforward.
Many symptomatic cases have opted to self-medicate at home, while others are staying in to protect themselves from getting infected.
Businesses are also struggling as COVID-19 rips through the population and hits their staffing. As a result, the capital’s streets are largely empty.
“Basically I follow the requirements of the Beijing government, that the elderly should stay home and go out as little as possible,” said one resident in his 80s who declined to give his name.
He said he was not too worried because he thought that the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 was mild, but added that “there shouldn’t be complete relaxation and freedom.”
“If we are dead, how can we be free, right?” he said.
People have complained of sold-out cold medicines and long lines at pharmacies, while Baidu Inc (百度) said that Internet searches for fever-reducing ibuprofen had risen 430 percent over the past week.
Soaring demand for at-home COVID-19 tests and medications has created a black market with astronomical prices, while buyers resort to sourcing the goods from “dealers” whose contacts are being passed around WeChat groups.
Authorities are cracking down, with market regulators hitting one business in Beijing with a 300,000 yuan (US$43,166) fine for selling overpriced test kits, the Beijing News reported on Tuesday.
In a sea change for a country where COVID-19 infection was once taboo and recovered patients faced discrimination, people are now taking to social media to show off their test results and give detailed descriptions of their experiences while infected.
A Beijing resident in his 50s said: “I think everyone has got used to it. They have moved on... I don’t think people are that fragile.”
Tropical Storm Koinu is expected to come closest to Taiwan from Wednesday through Friday as it passes through the Bashi Channel, but it remained uncertain how it would affect the weather, the Central Weather Administration (CWA) said. As of 8am yesterday, Koinu was about 1,000km east-southeast of Oluanpi (鵝鑾鼻), Taiwan’s southernmost point, and was moving northwest at 12kph, the CWA said. Koinu is likely to strengthen into a typhoon today or tomorrow and turn west as it enters the Bashi Channel to the south of Taiwan proper, CWA forecaster Chao Hung (趙竑) said. The storm’s trajectory is still unclear, so more time is
Taichung prosecutors yesterday indicted three people on charges of fraud for allegedly passing off watches assembled in Taiwan as Swiss-made timepieces and earning NT$400 million (US$12.4 million) in illicit gains. The Taichung branch office of the Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau said in a statement that the group, headed by Mei Hua Precision Industry Co (梅華精密) and Laora Trading Co (仁徠貿易) manager Yang Hung-pin (楊鴻斌), had purchased the rights to use the Swiss trademark Ogival years ago and from November 2006 to December 2020 sold 26,282 counterfeit watches in department stores and online platforms in Taiwan. The branch office said they received
PALAU LAUNCHES: The source said that Taiwanese military personnel traveled to Palau, where a US brigade watched their work amid plans for a defense network The military last month participated in live-fire launches of MM-104F Patriot (PAC-3) missiles under US observation in an undisclosed location in Palau, a step forward in a US-led plan to create a joint defense missile system in the first island chain, a source said on condition of anonymity. The PAC-3 is the mainstay surface-to-air missile of the US, NATO and democratic nations in East Asia, the source said, adding that it has never been live-tested within Taiwan’s borders, the source said. The proximity of Taiwan to China and China’s close surveillance of the nation’s borders and nearby sea zones is a significant
TRAJECTORY: Koinu’s outer rim is expected to reach Orchid Island early tomorrow and Taitung at about noon, where waves of at least 6m are forecast A sea warning for Typhoon Koinu was issued at 11:30pm last night, the Central Weather Administration (CWA) said, adding that a land warning could be issued today. High waves of about 2m were observed in Taitung yesterday, while waves of 6m or higher were forecast for today, said Huang Chia-mei (黃嘉美), head of the CWA’s Taitung Weather Station. At noon yesterday, Koinu was about 660km southeast of Taitung, she said, adding that it was moving more to the north and its center could possibly make landfall. The storm’s outer rim would likely reach Orchid Island (Lanyu, 蘭嶼) in the early hours tomorrow and